Today was the last media day before tomorrow's walk through and flight to the Bay Area ahead of the matchup with Stanford on Thursday night.
Jim Mora said that Jayon Brown and Marcus Rios are healthy and will be starting this weekend. It's nice to get some players coming back instead of going away (more on that theme later).
Mora denied (publicly) that the matchup with Stanford is a significant hurdle for his program, saying that making one game more important than another leads to inconsistency. He did say that this year's team is more physical than previous years squads who struggled with teams like Baylor and Stanford, and that this team seems better suited to match up with the Cardinal, though it still comes down to the usuals like execution and converting 3rd downs and not turning over the ball, etc...
Right tackle Caleb Benenoch echoed Mora's thoughts that this is just another game and they are approaching it the same way they do every week and they are not (publicly) adding any extra importance to it. He discussed the troubles the Bruins have faced against a big physical Stanford team that has really dominated the trenches in previous years by saying that the Bruins created a lot of their own problems by making mistakes against a team that makes so few. He also noted that Stanford's ball control and time of possession limits the number of offensive opportunities they'll get so they'll have to be very efficient when they get their chance.
I understand where Mora and Benenoch are coming from, because at some level, you really need to look at things differently as a player than as a fan. But I'm not playing now, so I'd guess that most intelligent and analytical Bruin fans are in fact looking at this game as a real bellwether for the program. It's no secret that the Bruins have lost 7 consecutive games to the Cardinal, including the last 4 under Jim Mora, and only one of those meetings, the Pac-12 Title game in 2012, was remotely competitive. We've been over this a thousand times by now, and the U.C.L.A. football program has made great progress under Jim Mora's leadership, but it also looks to have reached a plateau. So it's going to take something demonstrative and tangible, like a win against Stanford for instance, to convince me that the program hasn't reached some sort of ceiling under the current coaching staff.
Just two years ago, Mora bemoaned a loss to Oregon by angrily saying that they were 21 games into his tenure and it was time for U.C.L.A. to start winning those kinds of games.
We're so close but it doesn't matter. We're not after being close. Heck with being close! Losers can be close! We wanna win those games. The coulda, the woulda, the shoulda, all that cra... we don't want that. I'm tired of that. It's time for UCLA to turn the frickin page. And be something different. And win those games. That's what it's time to be.
I agree with that sentiment. Every player and every fan ought to agree on that. Anyone with aspirations of being a winner and being better than we are now has to agree with that.
Only now we're 45 games into it and we still haven't started winning these types of games.
So I hope that (privately, behind closed doors, and out of the eyes and ears of the press and fanbase) Jim Mora and his football team are agreeing with that, too.
The Bruins will get another shot at turning the page on Thursday night. Let's see...
From one offensive tackle to another....Chris Foster of the LA Times tweeted a sad note today. Junior Simon Goines, who started every game his first season and a half as a Bruin before being sidelined with injuries, and who left preseason camp in San Bernardino with an undisclosed medical condition, will take a medical retirement due to that condition.
All our best to you, Simon. Finish that degree and see what sort of pages that turns for you in the future.